Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Machin Mystery: Czeslaw Slania and the Unknown Competitor


After noted engraver Czeslaw Slania passed away in 2005, several books were published chronicling his life and works. Sadly, these were all published outside the U.S. and are difficult to get. I was looking through one of these books at the Western Philatelic Library and came across a story relating to Machins.

Slania engraved several Great Britain stamps. We Machin Maniacs are most interested, of course, in his Machins. Slania engraved two Machin portraits, one large and one small.

The large portrait was used only for a pane of four first-class Machins in the Profile on Print prestige booklet issued in 1999. Many collectors consider this to be the most beautiful Machin stamp of all time.

The small portrait was used for the set of four high values, also issued in 1999. Slania only engraved one die for these. He left a blank rectangular space where the denomination is. Each printer (there were two, Enschedé first, then De La Rue) added the four denominations in a later step of the production process.

With that lengthy introduction, here's the story.

Slania prepared the two dies in 1998 or early 1999. When he completed them, he printed proofs for his records. Sometime later, the printer (presumably Enschedé) found that some parts of the design of the small die were too fine to reproduce well, and they asked Slania to alter it. Although satisfied with the final design after alteration, Slania lost interest in the stamps and did not print another proof.

After the stamps were issued (probably at least several months later), a friend sent a set to Slania. Slania compared them to his proof and realized that the two didn't match. He decided someone else had designed the actual stamps, presumably because the printer didn't like the die he had produced. He then spent some time trying to decide who could produce such a good job, better than his own. Who could be a better engraver?

Then, suddenly, he remembered that he had made the changes himself! (He was almost 80 years old at that time, so we should forgive his memory lapse.) There was no better engraver, Slania was still the best.

--Larry

(PS Slania's name is pronounced Ches'-wav Swa'-nia. That's because the letter usually printed as an "L" in English is actually the Polish letter "L with stroke" or Ł, pronounced as a W. However, most times, if you start talking to someone about "Swa-nia", they won't understand, and you'll have to mispronounce it as "Sla-nia.")

Brilliant post Larry. Adding to Larrys post, here is a link to a Slania page written on this blog I am sure you will also find this interesting.

--Roy

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